— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 27, 2016
While that tweet shows how brands can tap Twitter in a humorous, engaging and extemporaneous sort of way, Twitter hopes to position its live video product as a brand opportunity with a dotted line leading to ROI.
Twitter pipes in live-streaming video – in the case of the debate, that video was supplied by Bloomberg – combined with a feed of related curated tweets. Advertisers can buy full-screen mid-stream ads with the sound on to play during the broadcast.
“Our No. 1 goal is serving the audience, the users on Twitter and the fans, [and] if we can service those audiences in the right way, we know marketers will respond,” Bain said. “We’ve already seen that on the NFL side.”
The question is whether live streaming will provide the boost in Twitter’s monthly active users (MAU) that the company and its investors have been jonesing for. The lack of MAU growth on the platform has been a theme of Twitter earnings calls for some time now.
Twitter has started including its more than 700 million logged-out users in its MAU count, which nudges its reach to around 1 billion when combined with its roughly 310 million logged-in users.
Although the value of a logged-in user versus someone in a logged-out state remains a question, Twitter likes to refer to the blended number as its “total addressable audience,” and live streaming does add some verisimilitude to the claim. The Twitter live-streaming product is virtually identical for logged-in and logged-out users.
“It’s a huge opportunity for marketers to get broad reach,” Bain claimed.
Reach has traditionally been TV’s domain. But while there’s no doubt millennials are cutting cords, “TV is still absolutely king” and Twitter isn’t looking to replace it, Bain said.
It’s more of a quid pro quo, with access to content exchanged for access to reach.
Twitter’s done a deal with TV networks to pass some of their ads through the live stream in a more targeted and addressable way than television can provide. Twitter knows, for example, the players or teams its logged-in users follow or which players they like to comment on, which could serve as a signal for targeting.
Twitter is also making an effort to speak the language of broadcasters. Rather than just sharing total live-stream audience numbers, Twitter is disclosing its average minute audience, a metric used by TV advertisers to denote how many people are simultaneously watching in any given 60 seconds of TV viewing. It’s a measure that hasn’t really been applied to digital yet.
“We’re trying to open up and show as much as we possibly can,” said Bain in a bit of a dig at Facebook’s recent video measurement woes.
In addition to the NFL, Twitter has sports content deals with the MLB, NHL, NCAA and Wimbledon, as well as plans to stream other types of content that might not get prime-time coverage but still have loyal and passionate – albeit smaller – audiences, including volleyball and field hockey.
Beyond sports, Twitter’s getting into finance content through deals with Bloomberg and finance news startup Cheddar.
“We’re going to continue to go category by category,” Bain said. “The role of Twitter has never been clearer. The use case is around being in the know, which is just another way to say ‘news.’ … The live stream concept is truthfully just an extension of what we’ve always been doing.”